New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

Daarom stem ik 15 maart op Dilan Yeşilgöz

Ik had een collega die ontslag heeft genomen en de politiek is ingegaan en nu zie ik haar ineens overal”, vertelde een verbaasde ambtenaar me enkele jaren terug. ‘Dilan Yeşilgöz zeker”, zei ik meteen. Zijn verbazing kon ik plaatsen – we kennen allemaal van die mensen die grootse plannen hebben (meedoen aan de campagne van Hillary Clinton en zo) en daarna hoor je er nooit meer wat van. Maar Dilan Yeşilgöz, die leverde meteen aan tal van actuele onderwerpen een belangrijke bijdrage.

Ineens beschikte de Amsterdamse gemeenteraad weer over iemand die veiligheid prominent agendeerde, die opkwam voor vrijheid en die daarbij ook nog diepgaand verstand heeft van diversiteit & inclusie. Dat is belangrijk want veel mensen hebben vooral een mening over diversiteit & inclusie maar weinig inzicht in de maatschappelijke en organisatorische dynamiek die het teweeg brengt. Dat is wel nodig en Dilan heeft het.
Ja, je ziet Dilan Yeşilgöz overal, met veel enthousiasme en energie. Ik loop al wat langer mee in het politieke landschap en niet altijd met blijdschap. Zo zat ik vorige verkiezingen een campagneavond naast een kandidaat-kamerlid dat zich vrij passief opstelde en toen ik vroeg wat die persoon ambieerde, zei: “ik wacht het wel af”. Neem dan Dilan: vol vuur, passie en charme, altijd met uitstekende voorbereiding van zaken, vliegt ze erop af. Niks afwachten. Hup we gaan ervoor. Het is nooit nodig geweest om aan haar te vragen wat ze ambieerde wat dat is glashelder.

Mijn stem gaat daarom op 15 maart naar Dilan Yeşilgöz, lijst 1 plaats 19.

Wat ik bewonder in Dilan is dat ze heel erg zuiver kan redeneren en debatteren; ze gaat tot de kern van de zaak ongeacht met wie ze in debat gaat en wat het onderwerp is. Ze laat zich niet afleiden van waar het haar om gaat, terwijl ze in contact blijft met degenen om haar heen. Als je visie combineert met deze vaardigheden, kun je samen met leden van andere partijen (een noodzaak in dit land) mooie dingen bouwen voor alle burgers.

Anne Frank House Amsterdam: remembrance and reflection

Anne Frank House bookcase
2000 inhabitants of Amsterdam got free tickets to visit the Anne Frank House during evening hours without queues. I was lucky to be one of them: a great initiative, thanks! It was wonderful to wander through the ‘Achterhuis’ in a quiet and respectful atmosphere.
The Anne Frank House is not far from my home and I pass the long rows of tourists a few times a week or I better say: try to pass….It is always busy, noisy, not a place where you’d like to go as an inhabitant.
I think I went there once, as a child – I remember it quite well, especially the book case (on the picture) that served as protection from the entrance to the hide-out of 8 Jewish people. These people spent 2+ years there but were betrayed at the end and only one of them, the father of Anne Frank, survived the holocaust.
anne frank house quoteCompared to my childhood visit many elements were added in the ‘museum’; quotes on walls or on blinded windows – short video’s from witnesses, classmates of Anne and the like. They are very impressive.
What I remember most are the words of Otto Frank on his daughter’s diary. He always felt close to his daughter but when he read her diary after the war, he realized that she never showed the deep thoughts and feelings that she wrote down. Since that moment he thinks that parents rarely know their children to the full. I guess that could be true. The way he expresses is very refined and respectful towards his daughter. I cannot write it down, you have to go visit the Anne Frank House and see that movie to understand the impression it made. And then imagine that he read that diary when she had already died (when she had already been killed). He would never have the opportunity to ask her any question any more…
Anne Frank House opening hoursI really thank the Anne Frank House for this opportunity. I wonder why this does not become more usual in Amsterdam. As for me, it is not about the free ticket, but the fact that I could go at 21.00h (I came home from work only at 19.30 and had to have dinner first) and that I did not need to wait in a queue or go in with plenty of loud speaking tourists. Would it be financially difficult for musea to have similar evening offers or are they just not used to opening hours in the evening?
As for the Anne Frank House tonight, it left me with quite some emotions as we live in difficult times and the idea that ‘it could happen again’ is in the hearts and minds of many. A place for remembrance and reflection, most valuable.

 

Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Amsterdam tower

It is new and it is brilliant, the Amsterdam Tower – a remake of the former Shell research labs in Amsterdam. I had a great time this week while giving a presentation about dealing with international business and culture in front of spectacular views over Amsterdam. Nevertheless my public was highly attentive, for a moment I doubted whether they would be with me at all but they did 🙂
If you look at the photo above and you see the 9 meter high windows in top of the building, that is where I stood – and here are some pictures of the views:

amsterdam tower  amsterdam toweramsterdam tower  amsterdam tower
The making of the Amsterdam Tower is a story out of a wizard book: three Dutch guys who were succesfull in the international music scene decided to cooperate in this and won the battle for the tower in competition with 34 other interested parties. They turned it into a combination of music company offices, a hotel, different bars, restaurants and clubs with a 360° turning restaurant in top: a music tower!
On top they offer a platform for all inhabitants of Amsterdam and our tourists to watch the spectacular panorama and to take a seat in Europe’s highest swing: the Amsterdam lookout. Alas I had serious business to do when I was there so I definitely have to come back to experience that swing!
Our city is blessed with these creative entrepreneurs who make such major contributions to the quality of life in Amsterdam: well done, thank you guys!
Last but not least an photo-impression (made with my phone, lack of quality, in reality much better) of the elevator going up: the music experience starts already from there…
amsterdam tower elevator  amsterdam tower elevator
Amsterdam Tower, a new experience not to be missed!

Amsterdam Maker Festival – to be developed

amsterdam makers festival
‘Vague’ is the best word for the impression the Amsterdam Maker Festival made on me. I must have missed something but to me it was more a fair than a festival. I think most people did not spend more than 1-1,5 hours there. Somehow the announcement of this ‘festival’ created big expectations but I guess the floor was too innovative for simple visitors to get any idea of sense and nature of what was going on – especially on the first floor where Makerversity resides. It is clear that the 1st floor is an inspiring working area for new businesses but what on earth were we as visitors doing there? I liked the Javascript-Dress though (< on the left) but it was just hanging there, no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
amsterdam maker cafeOn the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
amsterdam maker festival 3 On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!

behold the lamb in the seize the night festival

plukdenacht13-8-13  It is one of those ‘different’ festivals, the pluk-de-nacht / seize-the-night festival in  Amsterdam. Close to my home, there is a stone head (stenen hoofd), a former place for ships to stay on the riverside, that is now deserted and, rare in Amsterdam, not being confiscated yet for building houses or offices. This is where alternative activities are organised like the pluk-de-nacht / seize the night festival.

I went there last night and saw an almost incomprehensible Irish movie on the riverside: http://www.plukdenacht.nl/movie/behold-the-lamb-2/. I felt sorry for every human and animal in the movie – none of them were happy, although the humans lived and the animals died so that was not the same fate. And I didn’t get the clue, but possibly my attention was not really focussed because of the river and the boats, the public (a festival well visited!), my lovely companion, or just the cold that is always there as soon as the Netherlands have an outdoor festival…

There were nice food and drinks available (good wine from a sponsoring local company!) and the rental blankets were ok too. All visitors were white – a bit weird in a multicultural town like Amsterdam – and their behaviour was white too: no bother, polite and fun, but no collectivity or togetherness. A festival with its own colours and flavours, in Amsterdam 4 more days to go so I’d say: don’t miss it, go, see and enjoy!

White anger

  It was friday afternoon on a road from a popular neighbourhood into the park and I think a mosque had just finished prayer because many traditionally dressed Moroccans were there and so was I, dressed in business style on my way to a business appointment. A white Dutch woman came along on her bike, with a dog attached to the side of her bike on a one meter leash. Usually dog owners on a bike keep their dog on a leash that they hold in their hand, to be more flexible in Amsterdam’s dense traffic.
At the entrance of the parc stood some poles on the road (see the photograph), meant to keep cars out of the parc. The woman biked into the parc on one side of the pole, her dog took the other side but the leash attached to the bike was in between. So the dog was stopped and almost thrown against the pole and the bike was also stopped abruptly, the woman almost fell, just almost: bikers in Amsterdam have incredible skills for all kinds of situations.
A Moroccan guy wanted to help her to get herself upright and the dog past the pole but she started to shout in anger. This happened to her, she said, because on the left side a young guy was walking on the biking path and on the right side there was also a couple walking. They left her no space to go and that is why she and her dog ran into the pole. It is one of those irrational situations that can easily go out of hand. The woman had enough space and she had no damage. Her behaviour was very injust and impolite, even agressive and I couldn’t ignore the impression that she was shouting because they were Moroccans. This was the hidden white anger that people say and know is there, but you don’t see or hear it except in moments like this. Also I had the impression that the woman was waiting for a fight, scolding at random, hoping to be a victim and see her prejudices confirmed. Interesting were the doubts of the Moroccans around, I think they had the same impression: so should they take the scolding and get hurt, or defend themselves and get the blame?
The funny thing of appearances is that they can work for you. I was wearing business clothes for a completely different reason, but I could use it to have authority at that moment and solve some things. I took the attitude of a person in charge and told the woman that the men she was shouting at had nothing to do with her nearby accident – and that she had to be more aware herself of the dog stuck on a leash to the bike. That solved it, not for the woman who didn’t stop shouting out her anger but for the men who were shouted at. We continued our walk and when the woman was out of sight, we laughed about it together because it was also funny, the way she and her dog got stuck on a pole, blaming the rest of the world for it. Still, this type of everyday situations worry me: the step to a situation that runs out of hand is all too small. White anger, directed to innocent passengers, seems to lie just below the surface in Amsterdam 2011.

Dutch Herring Party

  The hall was full of hundreds of visitors yesterday at the Herring Party in Amsterdam, mostly white men in blue and grey suits. The atmosphere was good and lively. Apparently everybody was happy to see new herring come in. I saw some business relations here and there and had a nice chat, then I met up with a few black women (yes, they were there although a tiny minority). Like for me, it was their first herring party and none of ours knew where this tradition comes from, what it means. One of them looked it up at Google but all she found was lots of other herring parties mentioned. Nothing about history.
Why not Google myself? I tried and found that the Swedish have their own herring parties:
  Surströmmingfest – fermented herring party.  Not for the faint-hearted.  This herring is sealed in a can and fermented to a very ripe stage.  Its either loved or hated and has a very pungeant smell, although those who like it say the taste is heavenly.  Mostly eaten in the North of the country or at the coastal regions where they are fished.
After struggling my way through indeed loads of parties, even in The Netherland Club of New York tomorrow, June 16th (see http://www.netherlandclub.com/pages/events/?action=page&id=C771155DA9)
I finally found a (Dutch) page explaining some things about history:
http://networkedblogs.com/j1Urv
Herring parties mark the date that the first vessel of herring is brought into the country. In the Dutch Golden Age (17th Century) herring was both an important food product for Dutch people and an important export product that contributed to our wealth. Export was made possible by techniques invented to keep and transport the herring. At herring parties the herring is still presented in this original way.
So maybe we cannot find who started the parties, but we know now what they mean to be: a good party where people can enjoy the new herring. And indeed that mattered to the public yesterday: at least twice I was roughly pushed aside by elder men when a tray of herring was presented. It was like an attack to the trays from all sides… Strange because these men were not poor, they could afford to buy some herring themselves if the party wouldn’t provide them with enough herring (although there was plenty all the time). Anyway I thank the organizers for a new experience in a new world, all together it was kind of anthropological research and big fun!

Rewarding managers

 In the Republic of Amsterdam we live with the myth that managers are rewarded objectively. We select them for certain qualities like getting the best out of a diverse team and it is only for good results that they will get our appreciation and be promoted. This sounds so nice and reasonable! But….

In between our ideas and daily reality stands a thing called culture. Culture is the subtle, invisible factor that determines ‘the way we do things here’. Culture colours our perception of the results achieved. Once upon a time, there were objectively formulated results in the Republic of Amsterdam. I guess they still exist but somehow in daily life the interpretation of the results has changed.

Most valued are not the managers who create a productive work climate where a diversity of team members give the best of their talents and offer excellent but stable outcomes: too boring! Most valued are those managers who extinguish a fire, who solve a crisis. And of course in order to extinguish a fire and solve a crisis, managers do need one. In case of non-availability, managers in the Republic of Amsterdam have become expert in creating them: exciting! Fire and crisis make your work visible: it is hard to attract media attention without a good crisis, so never waste one.

Although this mechanism can be quite funny, especially when you’re an insider trying to predict where the next fire will break out, it doesn’t work out for diversity. In this climate, managers with characteristics of heroism survive best; they set the agenda in Amsterdam, much more than the diverse customers or workers’ insights do. It won’t help to re-formulate the results! Reviewing ‘the way we do things here’ and facing our perceptions is the best way to make progress; tobe less of a fire fighter and more of a leader serving clients…